BRADENTON, Fla. – It was around this time last year that Logan Hill started figuring things out.
The outfielder was given an aggressive push to Bradenton in his first full season, which wasn’t a huge surprise. He was a 25th round pick in the 2015 draft, but despite being taken so low, he showed off some impressive power potential and hitting skills, highlighted by his big frame. Despite that push, he struggled early, and had trouble finding playing time with a crowded outfield. Hill was also dealing with an early season injury, which didn’t help matters.
“I had a hip problem going in, so I missed a lot of Spring Training, and then got pushed here,” Hill recalled about his move to Bradenton, and subsequent move to West Virginia. “They didn’t phrase it to me as getting sent down. They just wanted me to be able to play everyday and really work on some stuff.”
The things Hill started working on were mechanical. He simplified his swing, cutting out a lot of movement and making his stance very calm and still. This included a slower load, which allows him to see the ball more. His old swing had a lot of moving parts, creating more pieces to sync up. When his timing was off, the swing would fall apart.
“I just simplified everything,” Hill said. “That’s what I worked a lot on in West Virginia. I just want to get my move a little more under control. I’m just seeing better pitches, and when I get a good pitch to hit, I’m not missing it as much.”
Hill started to believe in and trust the changes, and things took off. He had a .907 OPS and 10 homers in 217 at-bats over his final two months of the season. He carried the work over to the offseason, and has gotten more comfortable with the changes as time has gone on.
“Putting the barrel on the ball became more of a focus,” Hill said. “There were stretches here where I would go 3-for-4 one game, and would get up the next night and my timing would be completely off. Just being able to be consistently on time with this new load is really what has helped push me here, and able to capitalize on swings I get off.”
Hill came into the 2017 healthy, and with another shot at Bradenton. This time around, he put up the numbers that were expected of him during the 2016 season. He hit for a .266/.351/.513 line in 305 plate appearances, along with a system leading 16 home runs. This led to him getting promoted to Altoona this week.
“I think more than anything, his approach advanced,” Bradenton manager Gera Alvarez said after Hill’s promotion. “Balls in the zone he was hitting hard. He’s having a great year. He had 16 home runs, 50+ RBIs. He’s playing a position and he’s producing. Obviously there’s a lot of value in the organization when you have a player who can do that. I know when we talked to him, he was excited for the next challenge.”
Altoona will be a much better challenge for Hill, and a much better read of his potential. Despite the strong numbers this year, Hill was a bit old for the level. He turned 24 in May, and the league average age in the Florida State League is 23. He’s also a college hitter in A-ball, and typically you start to get a better read on college players when they move up to Double-A.
The promotion to Altoona will give a better indication of whether Hill’s hitting ability and his power are legit. One thing is for sure: he has the size and frame to hit for power, and his new simplified swing can only help him tap into that frame easier. We’ll see if it continues to come together as easy as it has for him over the last year in West Virginia and Bradenton.